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I Was Wrong


  • Page extent: 312 pages
  • Size: 241 x 160 mm
  • Weight: 0.62 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 155.9/2
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: BF575.A75 S65 2008
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Apologizing
    • Ethics

Library of Congress Record

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 (ISBN-13: 9780521865524)

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$103.00 (C)

Apologies pervade our news headlines and our private affairs, but how should we evaluate these often vague and deceptive rituals? Discussing numerous examples from ancient and recent history, I Was Wrong: On The Meanings of Apologies argues that we suffer from considerable confusion about the moral meanings and social functions of these complex interactions. Rather than asking whether a speech act “is or is not” an apology, Smith offers a nuanced theory of apologetic meaning. Smith leads us with a clear voice though a series of rich philosophical and interdisciplinary questions, arguing that apologies have evolved from a confluence of diverse cultural and religious practices that do not translate easily into pluralistic secular discourse. After describing several varieties of apologies between individuals, Smith turns to collectives. Although apologies from corporations, governments, and other groups can be profoundly significant, Smith guides readers to appreciate the kinds of meaning that collective apologies often do not convey and warns of the dangers of collective acts of contrition that allow individual wrongdoers to obscure their personal blame.

Dr. Smith is an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of New Hampshire. A graduate of Vassar College, he earned a law degree from SUNY at Buffalo and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Vanderbilt University. Before coming to UNH, he worked as a litigator for LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene, and MacRae and as a judicial clerk for the Honorable R.L. Nygaard of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He specializes in the philosophy of Law, Politics, and Society and he writes on and teaches aesthetics. He is working with Cambridge University Press on the sequel to I Was Wrong, applying his framework for apologetic meanings to examples in criminal and civil law. His writings have appeared in journals such as Continental Philosophy Review, Social Theory and Practice, The Journal of Social Philosophy, Culture, Theory & Critique, The Rutgers Law Journal, and The Buffalo Law Review.


Part I. The Meanings of Apologies: 1. The meanings of apologies; 2. Elements of the categorical apology; 3. Apologies and gender; 4. Apologies in diverse religious and cultural traditions; 5. Unusual cases; 6. The relationship between apologies and forgiveness; 7. Varieties of apologies; Part II: 8. The collective categorical apology; 9. The problem of consensus; 10. Issues specific to collective apologies; 11. Varieties of collective apologies.


"[This] book is lucid and learned, a rare combination. A must read for anyone interested in promoting civility in discourse...Highly recommended.
-D. Stewart, emeritus, Ohio University, Choice

"Smith provides us with a comprehensive and eminently sensible sourcebook on apologetic meaning. Smith has done a service by offering extensive and clearly written analyses of many aspects of apology as well as a great number of compelling and detailed examples. We have accurate guidebook to the many subtle ways apologies can succeed or fail."
--Matthew Talbert, West Virginia University, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

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